There has been an increase in discussion from residents on social media and news outlets about Medford Township’s plans to construct a new building off Union Street for its municipality and the Pinelands Branch Library.
Due to these circumstances, township manager Kathy Burger said the council will now provide a synopsis of the project and allow for a public comment question and answer segment under its Special Presentation portion of the Aug. 20 council meeting.
What transpired before the announcement was a public debate on Facebook that began when a post from the Medford Township page introducing the new construction plan was shared on Aug. 12 by Facebook member Joe Maggelet to the public group page Medford 08055 titled “New Municipal/Library Building coming in late 2020.”
Also, an article in the Burlington County Times titled “NJ libraries get rules for $125M in funding, county lining up projects” published Aug. 11 states that among the branches in the Burlington County Library System, Medford’s Pinelands Library is expected to apply for a new state library construction grant for its new building.
Medford Township has yet to respond to this paper’s inquiry about the new construction plan and whether it will apply for grants to use for the new library construction.
“Despite the numerous public discussions on this subject, there have been several inquiries by the media and several social media posts with questions and incorrect facts regarding the project,” said Burger in an email in response to an inquiry from The Sun about the state’s funding initiative.
It all started from a council meeting on Aug. 7, where a presentation was given by Brooks Garrison of Garrison Architects in which he shared construction layouts of the new building. According to him, the township will open the project up to bids on Aug. 30 with an Oct. 10 deadline for bid submissions. He also expects the building to officially open in March 2020.
The building’s renderings were published on Medford’s website with a first- and second-floor plan, along with an animated video of the exterior of the building.
The shared Facebook post sparked a lengthy conversation about the township’s choice to have the new building in its proposed location, the aesthetics and the cost of the project to taxpayers.
One member asked if the county’s Pinelands Branch Library will be moving into the new building. Maggelet responded to the comment by saying, “I believe the county is providing some funding.”
This comes at a time when the State Library announced it will soon receive grant applications to its new $125 million NJ Library Construction Bond Act. According to the proposal, the grant could support a project like Medford’s with up to 50 percent of funding.
Officials from the Burlington County Library System stated they do not have the ability to request the specific grant, and instead, it is ultimately Medford’s responsibility to apply.
“BCLS is working closely with Medford to maximize this unique state funding opportunity on behalf of Burlington County taxpayers, ” said BCLS Commission Chair Jonathan Chebra.